Telecom Italia CEO seeks new term after KKR grid deal

ROME (Reuters) – Telecom Italia’s (TIM) chief executive is available for a second term to oversee the reshaping of the phone company after the sale of its domestic fixed-line grid to U.S. fund KKR, the top executive said on Friday.

Backed by Giorgia Meloni’s conservative administration, the sale of the grid, a first for a former phone monopoly in a major European country, is at central to Labriola’s strategy to revive the company.

TIM’s board approved the 19 billion euro ($20.29 billion) deal on Sunday, defying criticism from top investor Vivendi, which has threatened a legal challenge to the decision, saying shareholder approval was needed.

Asked where he saw himself in spring 2024, when the board’s mandate will end, Pietro Labriola told Class-CNBC television that “having kicked off this project, I feel the burden and the responsibility to complete it”.

“But it’s not up to me to choose. I give my availability (for the top job),” Labriola, who was appointed as CEO in January last year, added.

Labriola’s name could be included in a list of candidates that the group’s outgoing board could submit to a shareholder vote at the company’s annual general meeting, two sources told Reuters.

According to the people, who asked to remain anonymous because the process is not public, TIM’s internal nomination committee has started work on the board’s slate.

A spokersperson for TIM declined to comment.

On Friday, Labriola called for more dialogue among TIM’s shareholders.

“Everyone has the right to give indications… but we need to open up more and more to dialogue and avoid transforming everything into a confrontation,” he said.

As CEO, Labriola said he was available to discuss all positions, and had to respect the opinions of all, not just some shareholders.

The executive, 56, has spent his entire career within TIM.

He was made CEO of the former phone monopoly last year to replace Luigi Gubitosi, who left TIM’s top job after a clash with top investor Vivendi over a takeover approach from KKR.

($1 = 0.9370 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, writing by Giulia Segreti, editing by Gianluca Semeraro and Barbara Lewis)